Two photographs today of Corporation workers building turf ricks in Eyre Square. By September, 1941, great ridges of turf, piled twelve to fifteen feet high extended all over the green sward of the Square, a vast quantity of over 4,000 tons. The turf was collected from various bogs in Connemara - from Moycullen to Clifden - by private lorry for fuel Importers Ltd, a semi ? state company. The Square became a vast central depot or collection point for the company. In November 1941, the Army provided one hundred lorries to drive to Galway to collect this turf and transport it to Dublin.
Turf being a bulky fuel, these huge dumps had to be renewed constantly, so there was a continuous movement of lorries around the Square. Over the duration of ?The Emergency?, tens of thousands of tons of turf were collected from bogs around the county, stocked in Eyre Square, and then delivered to Dublin by road and rail.
Fuel was a major problem for people at that time. Coal was imported from Britain, but there was never enough of it, there were several varieties ? Wigan coal, Jewel and Scotch coal, Queen Orral coal, and the cheapest which was known as wagon coal. The papers were full of warnings about the shortage of coal, and everyone was advised to buy a sleán, rent a plot, and cut their own turf. It was a familiar sight in summertime to see whole streets of people making their way to the bog with their sleáns and baskets of food. People would spend their weekends cutting and footing and standing the turf. There was lots of fun too, and a great community spirit.
There was no petrol available for cars then, but since fuel was an ?essential service?, petrol was issued to lorries for the movement of turf from the road nearest the turf bank to the garages, sheds, and back gardens of the town. Ricks of turf sprouted up in lots of gardens. If you did not have a cat or terrier dog, the turf rick could become infested with rats. It was easy for them to burrow into the turf and make a warm nest for themselves for the winter. Sonny Ruane from New Road had a ferret, which he hunted rabbits with and he used this animal to clear the turf ricks of the rats. He also sold skinned rabbits for one shilling and sixpence each. They were lovely.
All of the above, including the photographs, is taken from Victor Whitmarsh?s book, ?Shadows on Glass, Galway 1895-1960?, which has just been published. It is a wonderful pictorial record of our city ? lots of old photographs and advertisements and lively text. There is a particularly good section on Galway during the Emergency, and a list of the 755 Galwaymen who were killed during the First World War. This very fine production is in all good bookshops at ?25.00, and is highly recommended.
Also highly recommended is a documentary on An Taidhbhearc which is being shown on TG4 this Saturday evening at 9.00pm. It was made by Donal Haughey who is already well known for films he made on The Estoria, Sonny Molloy, etc, and should not be missed. Another one for the Galway Collection.
Birdwatch Galway?s next outing led by Tim Griffin will take place on Saturday 6th December. It will commence as usual from the base of Nimmo?s Pier at 10.30am. All are welcome, especially beginners. For further details contact (091) 590154.